Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence and of Experience Summary and Analysis of "Night"


This poem draws a contrast between this world, in which nature is red in tooth and claw, and a “New World” in which distinctions between predator and prey cease to exist. The angels arrive at night to spread blessings upon the natural world, as demonstrated by their visit to every nest and den to bring sleep and comfort to all the creatures. When predators such as “wolves and tygers” hunt for prey, the angels intervene to keep the erstwhile victims safe until the New World can come. When this New World is arrives, the bloodiness of nature changes, as the lion’s former predatory nature becomes that of protector. The lion weeps “tears of gold,” and its heart becomes tender toward the herd animals it would have hunted in the old world.

The lion speaks, declaring its newfound understanding that the meekness of Jesus Christ has driven out wrath, while his health has driven out sickness “from our immortal day.” This immortal day, everlasting life in a New Earth, contrasts with the night of the poem, which represents the moral darkness of our world and possibly the nighttime of life, death. The lion itself can now rest beside the lamb and sleep or meditate on “him who bore thy name,” who is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, in a reference to Blake’s earlier poem “The Lamb.” The lion will be washed in the river and its mane will turn to gold, indicating his new immortal nature. After that, the lion will guard over the flock forever.


"Night" is a poem of six octets. Each octet follows an ABABCCDD rhyme scheme. The first four stanzas describe the growing darkness, both literal and symbolic, as night progresses, finishing with the sound of wolves howling and the promise that angels protect the weak in the midst of these dangers. The last two stanzas focus on the lion, who actually speaks halfway through the fifth and through the sixth stanza. This personification of the lion both illuminates the mysteries of the natural world and hints at Blake's representation of the lion as an agent of God, the "Lion of Judah."

The idea that nature is infected by human sin and must be restored alongside humanity is a familiar one in the Christianity that permeated Blake’s world. This song of Innocence contrasts to some of the more ironic poems in that the promise of a better future is taken seriously and is not used as an excuse for the current state of things. It is interesting to note that only when discussing the natural world can Blake allow for comfort, amid the current, damaged state of the world, in the hope of a better tomorrow. Perhaps he sees human-created suffering as something that can be changed, whereas the natural world is not responsible for its own violent system.